Roberto Martinez felt Everton’s FA Cup fourth-round victory at Carlisle on Sunday provided evidence they are heading in the right direction.
Martinez’s men went into the tie on the back of losing their Capital One Cup semi-final against Manchester City, lying 12th in the Premier League having won just once in 10 top-flight games, and with criticism towards the manager growing.
A team showing six changes subsequently saw off League Two Carlisle 3-0 thanks to early Arouna Kone and Aaron Lennon goals followed by a Ross Barkley strike, setting up a fifth-round trip to Bournemouth.
Martinez hailed a “professional” performance which he saw as a good demonstration of how serious Everton – trophy-winners last when lifting the FA Cup in 1995 – are about chasing silverware.
“We’ve competed really well in the domestic cups this season,” said the Spaniard, whose side led the League Cup semi-final against City 3-1 on aggregate in Wednesday’s second leg, only to end up beaten 4-3.
“We had a real disappointment in the semi-final.
“That is where we wanted to be, but clearly we were not ready yet because we didn’t get through.
“We played a really good Manchester City team and over two legs for the longest spell we were at Wembley.
“So it is just that little bit more that we need to learn, and we need to get better.
“But we’re on the right path – we want to be very serious about how we progress in cup competitions, and I think (against Carlisle) we displayed that intent and professionalism.
“In the FA Cup you don’t play as a Premier League team or a League Two team.
“These are very difficult games. Trying to get in the fifth round is not easy, and we did that really well.”
Barkley produced an impressive individual display as he took his club tally for the season to nine goals.
The 22-year-old England international was applauded by both sets of fans when substituted in the second half – something Martinez, who had no fear Barkley might not take the game seriously, thought was testament to the player’s “phenomenal” talent.
Martinez said: “For the home fans to show their appreciation was a great example of what a phenomenal English talent we have on our hands and joy it is to watch him enjoy his football.
“I don’t think Ross has to answer any sort of questions in terms of attitude. He’s an incredible footballer in terms of responsibility.
“He wants to become more important and control games even more. At such a young age, he’s very impressive from that point of view.”
Carlisle boss Keith Curle also had praise for Barkley.
“Being beaten 3-0 by Everton is not a disgrace in any way, shape or form,” Curle said.
“They have players like Ross Barkley and he is a quality, quality player.
“Even coming off the pitch our lads weren’t quick enough to catch him to ask him for his shirt!
“The simplicity of how Everton play, him included, is something for us to learn from.”